Source: Wikimedia

Dear Diary,

Want to know the secret of success in today’s civilized world?

Be civilized.

More on that in one moment…

First, we note that the Dow hit a new record high yesterday of 17,688, after rising 40 points. And gold is just a buck shy of the $1,200-an-ounce mark. It appears to have bottomed out. Time will tell.

Remember that gold is not an investment. It is money – the best money. You keep some on hand; you never know when you may need it.

Now, back to the secret of success…

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

In 1962, Robert Axelrod was still a student. But he had access to the University of Michigan’s only computer – a primitive, clunky machine.

Students were just starting to figure out what to do with computers. And Axelrod’s idea was to program it to play a game.

The game was meant to resolve what is known as the prisoner’s dilemma.

You and a friend get busted for drugs. If you keep your mouths shut, you will both walk away. But if one of you rats out the other, the snitch will go free and the other will do time. If you both turn on each other, both of you will do time… but probably not as much, since you have both cooperated with the prosecution.

You are in separate cells being sweated by the cops.

What to do?

The question is not just theoretical. In many situations – business and personal – you have to make a decision about what to do. Are you nice to the people you deal with? Or do you look out for No. 1, regardless of the consequences to others?

In a divorce, for example, do you try to get the most you can get? Or do you work together for the best outcome for both of you?

What’s the best strategy?

A subculture of logicians arose trying to answer this question. Inevitably, the geeks were pulled into action. Axelrod developed computer algorithms to model the choices.

One was always nasty (which he called “Lucifer”). One was always nice (which he called “Jesus”). Others were more complicated.

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